The White House declined to comment publicly on the funding disparity and referred POLITICO to the Defense Department, which did not respond to multiple requests for comment. The states in question also did not offer an explanation as to why their costs alone will be fully covered.
A senior administration official, responding to POLITICO’S queries by email, declined to address the funding disparity, but called the 25 percent burden for all other states “common sense.”
“In order to help states respond to the pandemic, the Federal Government took the unprecedented step to fully fund National Guard deployments,” the official said in a statement. “Now, as conditions warrant, it should be common sense that States will resume normal cost sharing.”
But the National Guard Association said that cost sharing for a federal deployment like the coronavirus relief effort is anything but “normal,” and they know of no other time states were asked to pick up part of the tab for a mission like this.
Much of the Guard’s coronavirus relief work has been carried out under what’s known as Title 32, meaning troops are deployed for an emergency — and the the federal government bears the full cost while personnel are eligible for a series of health and retirement benefits. But governors remain in command of the Guard troops in their state.
Under a different status, known as state active duty, a different status, states can get reimbursed for part of the cost by FEMA.
Another Trump administration official told POLITICO that the White House Office of Management and Budget, not Trump, made the call to single out Florida and Texas for increased support. OMB also declined to comment.
The National Guard Bureau, which is managing the nationwide deployment, similarly provided no explanation and declined to provide a state-by-state breakdown of how many of the more than 20,000 troops currently on federal status are deployed in which states.
According to the office of Florida governor’s Ron DeSantis, some 1,400 National Guard troops were responding to the pandemic as of Tuesday — roughly five percent of the nationwide total.
“The Florida National Guard is an integral component of our state’s COVID-19 response with more than 1,400 guardsmen and women mobilized,” Cody McCloud, a DeSantis spokesperson, told POLITICO in a statement. “To date, they have assisted in the testing of nearly 1 million individuals through state-supported drive-thru and walk-up testing sites. The Florida National Guard also remains a key part of our logistics operation, helping to send PPE to health care workers and first responders statewide.”
“We thank President Trump for recognizing the Florida National Guard’s importance to these efforts,” he added.
Texas declined to provide its Guard totals. But Gov. Greg Abbott, a key ally of the president’s, touted the higher funding level for his state’s Guard deployment at a press conference Tuesday.
“The president has reauthorized and extended federal funding for the National Guard to continue in service for the remainder of this calendar year at a 100 percent reimbursement rate,” Abbott said. “That is a tremendous financial as well as personnel assistance for the response by the state of Texas to Covid-19.”
Others say they are puzzled by the special treatment given that dozens of states are in the same boat.
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